Free 20th Century Music Appreciation Lesson: Sousa and Joplin

20th Century Music Appreciation free

Today I’d like to share something that I’ve been working on this year and am happy to share some free 20th Century music appreciation lessons with you.

My kids are now involved in a Tapestry of Grace Fellowship Group where they are studying 20th Century History and Literature, and I teach a 20th Century Music Appreciation class each week.  I use the following lesson plan format for all ages Kindergarten through 12th grade, with the elementary kids in one class and upper grades in another.  I teach more detail for the upper grades and add a coloring sheet (usually of an instrument that’s being featured) to the lower grades.  Another thing I do is have a blank form for the older kids to fill out while I’m teaching them, as well as a form for them to fill out while they are listening to the music.  I’ll be compiling all the lessons into an e-book to share at the end of the year.  But, until then I’ll be sharing some of the lessons with you!

Enjoy this lesson about Marches with John Philip Sousa and Ragtime with Scott Joplin!

(You can download the PDF versions of the Sousa and Joplin Music Appreciation Lesson, the 20th Century Music History Notebooking Page, and the 20th Century Music Listening Printable.)

John Philip Sousa (1854-1932)

led the U.S. Marine Band from 1880-1892. Then he formed his own band and toured the United States and Europe for the next 40 years. He wrote some operettas, waltzes, and 136 marches. A march is a form usually played by a band (such as marching band) that is typically in 2/4 time. Hear two of his most popular marches “Stars and Stripes Forever”

“The Washington Post”

In the 1890’s the march form helped lead to the ragtime piano style. Marches emphasize beat one; whereas rags syncopate the beat and emphasize beat two. The most popular years for ragtime was from 1900-1925, and the most popular composer was Scott Joplin.

Scott Joplin (1868-1917)

started piano lessons as a boy but probably didn’t go to school until he was a teenager. He went to college at age 28 and published 50 compositions. He wrote some marches and then started writing ragtime piano music. When he published the “Maple Leaf Rag” in 1899, it became the first piece of sheet music to sell over 1 million copies.

Joplin said ragtime music shouldn’t be played fast. Here’s “The Pineapple Rag”


“The Entertainer”

Composers such as George Gershwin and Irving Berlin (who wrote “Alexander’s Ragtime Band”) were influenced by ragtime music.

A style that grew out of ragtime was called “stride piano.” It’s more improvisational than ragtime. The right hand still plays the melody, but the left hand has more leaps. Pianists would play popular songs of the day in the stride style.

James P. Johnson (1891-1955)

is known as the “Father of Stride.” A famous piece of the era was “Carolina Shout”

“Fats” Waller (1904-1943)

was another popular stride performer and composer. He wrote the stride piano piece “Handful of Keys.”

An entire musical was written about Fats Waller using his music; it’s called Ain’t Misbehavin’, and here is “Handful of Keys” sung

Special Deal:

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    • That’s funny! Yes, I’ll do some pop/rock singer lessons later on in the year, so maybe I’ll include Janis Joplin there!